Syria used chemical weapons including sarin nerve gas on its own people, killing as many as 150. The big question is how forcefully will the white house respond? The pressure on the president is building.
– CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley has the latest
Massive explosions rocked the capital of Syria early Sunday, renewing claims that Israel has launched attacks into the war-torn country. Israel Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon weighs in on the claims and the latest developments in the conflict on "Starting Point" this morning. "We cannot confirm or deny activities in Syria, but we have concerned about the involvement of Iran," Danon says.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) on news that U.S. now believes that chemical weapons was used by Assad regime in Syria.
CNN's Sara Sidner on an Israeli intelligence head who claims Syria is using chemical weapons on rebel forces.
Israel spokesperson Mark Regev on President Obama's first trip to Israel and reports of chemical weapons in Syria.
[MORE TO COME]
NATO is now going forward with a plan to move missilies and troops to the Syrian border, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to defy pressure from the United States and its allies. Fears continue to grow after new reports that his forces are preparing chemical weapons to use against rebel forces inside Syria.
Chad Sweet is the Former Directorate of Operations for the CIA, the Former Chief of Staff for the Department of Homeland Security, and the Co-Founder and CEO of The Chertoff Group. This morning on "Starting Point," he says a combination of human and technological intelligence supports concerns that the Syrian Army is loading chemical components to their weapons. “The signs are all pointing towards some type of mobilization where these chemicals are being locked and loaded on bombs that, at a minimum, shows potential intent to use them.”
He adds that the information is credible enough for the United States to be taking notice: “It is unlikely that the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State would be making such very forceful statements unless there was a high degree of confidence in the United States intelligence community that the potential for the use of these weapons is quite high.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and Harvard Professor Nicholas Burns says that there will be “negative repercussions” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons against his people and that he will lose the civil war.
Burns says, “The Syrian government would have to think long and hard before using those weapons. There’ll be all sorts of negative repercussions from them including the threat of military intervention. And I do think the Russian government will not want to see Syria use chemical weapons or let them out to the control of rebel forces.”
When O’Brien asks if Assad is desperate enough to use weapons on his own people, Burns answers, "It’s really impossible to tell. The Syrian government spokespeople have been saying over the last couple of days under no circumstances will they use them, except for foreign military intervention. But, Assad is desperate. His back is against the wall. He is going to lose in this civil war. The rebels have made extraordinary advances over the last couple of days. So he’s got to be thinking about either exile or perhaps creating an enclave within Syria where his Alawite clan can defend themselves perhaps along the Mediterranean coast.”
The violence in Syria is escalating this morning, with rebel fighters preparing to face government troops in Aleppo and Turkey deciding to close its borders with the country.
International concerns have also increased after Syria's foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi confirmed that the country possesses chemical weapons.
On Syrian state TV, Makdissi insisted that the weapons will not be used against the Syrian people, but rather are "meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic."
Retired Syrian Brigadier General Akil Hashem calls the idea that the regime will be able to use chemical weapons against other countries as retaliation for military intervention a "big bluff" on Starting Point this morning.
Gen. Hashem insists that the Syrian regime will use these chemical weapons against the Syrian people if they become desperate, and explains that he doesn't think Assad will step down because the conflict involves not only him and his family, but also the "entire corrupted establishment" surrounding the regime.
Ret. Syrian Gen. Akil Hashem says US leadership can end violence in Syria, but Pres. Obama is distracted by reelection.
The United Nations is pressing the U.S. to accept Iran into the talks about the violence in Syria. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon believes Iran should be part of the broad discussion about the country and the fate of the President Bashar al-Assad. Iran has previously been sanctioned by the United Nations.
Ban's comments came after President Obama and Russian President Putin came down in tense fashion talking about the Syrian conflict. Russia has blocked the U.N. Security Council resolutions against Assad's regime. The Two leaders insist progress was made during the talk and they agreed to work with all "interested parties."
This morning on "Starting Point," fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte weighs in on whether bringing Iran into Syria talks makes sense, what role Russia should be playing in discussions and if the Obama Administration is to blame for failing to take a lead on quelling the violence.